Cinematic Ammunition: The Visual Impact of Global Unrest

High-pitched sounds killed everyone on earth known to be an enemy of human freedom.” (from the 1957 science fiction film The 27th Day)

This two-part series, presented by Sherry Millner & Ernest Larsen, is structured as a screening/discussion/workshop. It explored both the immediate sparks and the deep-seated underlying causes of the historically unprecedented global demands in recent years for direct participation in democratic processes at all levels of common existence, from the bottom up. Each of the programmes focuses on the visual dynamics of a specific dimension of this world-wide outpouring of dissatisfaction (not to say disgust) with politics as usual. These events are intended to show how audiovisual representations can and do make a uniquely forceful and thoughtful contribution to a common understanding.

The non-fictional media works of Cinematic Ammunition: The Visual Impact of Global Unrest explore the conjunctions and the overlaps between two orders of risk-taking, two histories, in fact: the stirring history of political struggles across the globe and the wide-ranging, often surprising history of short-form experimental media. In this sense, at least, the representation of new imaginative possibilities, characteristic of experimental work, is matched by the desperate or brave search for the unrealized potentials of new or repressed forms of agency. The screening programs, products of eight years of sometimes intermittent but intense research, attempt to heighten the short film’s propensity to grab onto a contradictory moment, a tumultuous issue, an inconvenient emotion, an irrepressible claim. The experimental, linked, as it is, almost invariably to the subjective, seldom fails to bring us right up against the all-too-brief moment of potential recognition of what it might mean to be free, which, as the Brazilian filmmaker Jorge Furtado says, everyone recognizes but no one can define.

Cinematic Ammunition, a title intended more as accurate description than hyperbole, explores:

  • the complex relations between so-called marginal populations and the centres of power, at points when the ‘marginal’ suddenly or not so suddenly refuses to accept their ascribed status as non-citizen, refugee, migrant…. bereft of civil or human rights, in the context of the Border – whether Calais or Tijuana or Syria.
  • the question of how and when ordinary people take on the necessity to act at unpredictable moments of crisis or out of sheer necessity. How do people dramatize their plight in order to gain even momentary attention in the apparently almost chaotic whirl of events, in a heavily mediatized world?
  • the question of the maintenance of social order, the function of the police, which in conditions of unrest all too readily become an occupying force against the expressed need and desire for change, as embodied by the movement of people into the streets.
  • the fascinating tension between political groupings, always necessary for the articulation of potential change and the equally imperative need for free, rather than coerced, association and activity, perhaps the crux of human rights.
  • history and memory in the context of previous moments of sudden upheaval.

One element common to both oppositional politics and experimental film/video culture (in addition to the transgression of accepted conventions) is the emphasis on tactics and strategies that valorize risk-taking as an exhilarating path to new territory. Within individual programs a deliberate mix of films, film styles, and range of political and aesthetic commitments are intended to allow for the films, in a sense, to argue with, to test, or to contest each other, to suggest other, perhaps untried or historically blocked, alternatives and possibilities. The open question, in this unprecedented historical moment, is how the decades-long connection between social and aesthetic transformation might be imagined and realized anew.

Camera: Natalie Kynigopoulou